A couple of years ago XTC’s Colin Moulding and Terry Chambers teamed up to form TC&I, and after releasing an EP of new material (2017’s Great Aspirations; reviewed here), they did some live shows and recorded them. Naked Flames – Live at Swindon Arts Centre is the souvenir of these concerts, a baker’s dozen of songs originally recorded by Moulding and Chambers in one of new wave’s most celebrated groups. Including one of XTC’s other songwriter’s tunes (“Statue of Liberty”), the selection is a pretty good look at Moulding’s best work.
Colin Moulding was definitely the George Harrison of XTC, contributing few songs to the band’s albums while Andy Partridge-as-Lennon-&-McCartney had the spotlight as the premier wordsmith in the group. Here TC&I run through many of Moulding’s good ones, such as “Grass,” “Making Plans for Nigel,” “Life Begins at the Hop,” “Ten Feet Tall” and a few more obvious choices, take a stab at later tunes like “Standing in for Joe,” and two original TC&I tunes, “Scatter Me” and “Say It,” and the result is pretty good. I say that because, though the band is not bad, they’re not exactly great either. While it’s nice to hear some of these XTC tunes played live, there’s a certain vibrancy missing on this disc. I think that’s partly due to the recording itself, which is missing some top end shimmer and therefore lacking in live vibe, and partly because Moulding’s voice seems kind of weak. They may have been able to beef it up for XTC’s studio recordings but in this live situation it lacks bulk.
This all being said, there’s no doubting that Colin Moulding has written some truly great songs, and TC&I covers them ably on Naked Flames. These live renditions just don’t pack the same punch that XTC’s originals did. Chances are the initial interest in these versions will wane soon after first hearing and the superior XTC takes will remain the quintessential versions of Colin Moulding’s greatest hits.
3/5 (TC&I Music TC&I-CD-002, 2019)
Well, shave me bald and call me “Olsen” – it just dawned on me that I’ve never reviewed any of the kick-ass EP CDs my buddies in THE FENTONS have put out. Their latest, I’ve Seen It All Now, has got a typically solid handful of goodies on it and it’s about time I wrote about them.
A five-piece country band of the best kind, The Fentons are made up of brothers Dave and Jim Keller on guitars, mandolins and banjo, Steve “Blackie” Pearce on lap steel and electric guitar, Kent “Snake” Caldwell on bass and Chas Bronson IV on drums. I can’t say that this lineup pushes the envelope, at least arrangement-wise, but what these guys have is a love for the music that comes to them from years of playing all kinds of other kinds of music. In fact, three of the five – Jim, Dave and Chas – have played together in various combos for something like thirty years. Four of the five guys sing, and their harmonies recall the best of that Louvin/Everly Brothers archetype. So when they hit the chorus of “Party of 2,” for instance, they sound like they’ve been singin’ together on the front porch since they were all knee-high to a cricket… or 2.
Another great thing about I’ve Seen It All Now is the lyrics. Not sure which Fentons wrote what, but I can tell you that “There’s a Body” and “I’m the Devil” have some clever couplets going on. And “Dig a Hole,” what can I say about it? How about: I’ve been bugging them to record this son of a bitch since I first heard them do it almost two years ago. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if you want a song that tells you to get over your shit and move on, or else, then this is it. Brings a tear (or 2) to my eye every time. Their harmonies on that final chorus will do you in if you’ve got a heart and a soul.
I must say, here and now, that The Fentons are friends of mine, so this review is definitely colored by that. But, as an ethical rock critic, I also must say that every word here is true, and I wouldn’t review I’ve Seen It All Now if I didn’t like it. (Sometimes my passive/aggressive side ain’t such a bad thing!) You can get the download or buy the CD through the band at fentonstwang.com or at one of their shows – if the fools don’t forget to bring the merch tub!
3.5/5 (Flamingo Records, 2018)
There are so many Paul McCartney fans who’ll buy whatever the man puts out – and then bitch about what a ripoff it is, or how he could’ve been more generous with the bonus tracks or yadda yadda yadda! Truth is, I’m pretty glad he bothers to put out anything at all. I haven’t bought everything that’s come out (news to my wife!), and I’m a bit behind on getting the releases I do want, but his new releases are still something I look forward to. Some are hits, some are misses…
1985 is a new single that is based on the 1973 song, “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five,” which was the final track on the legendary Band on the Run album. Remixed by Timo Maas & James Teej, 1985 is a 12″ single or download (which I’m basing my review on; the physical release isn’t available until 5/27) that was first released a couple months ago as a white label promo (limited to 300 copies, see image below). They were real sly about the artist credit but these days trying to keep something a secret is a losing battle; the word was out that it was a Macca-sanctioned release within moments. Super Deluxe Edition reported, “They [Maas & Teej] clearly utilise stems from the original multi-track, meaning that this can only have been created with McCartney’s cooperation,” (SDE’s original post here) and that must be the case because there’s no way someone could have remixed the track to this degree without having the original multitrack files to work from.
I think 1985 is pretty cool. The Radio Edit version is concise, taking most of the strengths of the McCartney & Wings track and creating an imaginative remix. The piano track is practically a no-show, though, so the tune is carried more by Macca’s bass line. The Club Mix and Remix versions are longer, naturally, than the “edit” and approach the subject from different directions; I prefer the Remix for listening though both versions are fairly similar.
McCartney’s been a fan of the electronica for a long time – he quietly released his first stab at it, credited as The Fireman, in 1991 – so it’s not a case of “Hey, that old guy’s trying to be hip by proving he’s into the latest thing. Isn’t he adorable?!” Since then he’s done two more Fireman releases (all of which were created with his buddy, Youth) and a 2LP remix item titled Twin Freaks in collaboration with Freelance Hellraiser in 2005. If you’re not a fan of the remix, or of the way they mashed up The Beatles on the Love project for Cirque de Soleil, you may not like 1985. But since the download is only three bucks, you could easily get a preview of the tracks before plunking down the money for the 12″. I’m grateful that my favorite musician of all time is still with us, treating us to sometimes old, sometimes new, sometimes borrowed or blue versions of the music I grew up with. I can’t imagine a world without Paul.
Though I bet my wife can…
Here’s a clip of Wings in 1974 doing “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” from the longform film One Hand Clapping, which wasn’t released until the super deluxe Band On The Run reissue in 2010.